Below is a note that Lower School Principal, Elena Jaime, sent to the Lower School families today. We thought it was such an excellent articulation of both what is happening to political discourse, and what we must continue to do as educators to ensure that our students learn how to engage in dialogue with those who think differently, that we wanted to share it with you. We are joined with our colleagues in the Lower and Middle Schools in the work of engaging as active citizens in our democratic society, and in helping our students recognize when they hear destructive discourses from both those in local communities and those in power.
I imagine that the tragic events of these past several weeks, the threats to members of our local and global communities, the murders and attempted murders of people in Pennsylvania and Kentucky over the weekend, and the countless other hate crimes that have gone unreported continue to be on the minds of many of you. Last Thursday morning, I shared a note with the teachers regarding some of my thoughts on the impact of these moments on our work as educators. Below is an excerpt of that note.
As educators in today’s political climate, we find ourselves in the position of reimagining how we teach our students, even and perhaps especially, our youngest students, about how to engage in productive, thoughtful and respectful dialogue. Regardless of where you position yourself on the political landscape, the fact remains that we are in this moment because words have been weaponized in today’s political environment. There is little dialogue that occurs between people and groups who disagree on issues, and what has taken its place is a natural inclination to demonize and dehumanize those with whom we disagree.
When I am my best self, I hope to model the ability to speak about those with whom I fundamentally disagree in a way that still honors their humanity. To be sure, the events of yesterday are directly connected to the dangerous ways in which our leaders have chosen to consolidate political power by harnessing the very worst in people and there is an important lesson in naming that as such. My hope is that I also model for our youngest students the ways in which we combat demagoguery and hate-filled speech with clear messages of hope that are grounded a desire to create equitable and just spaces for all.
We are poised to help develop the next generation of citizens and activists. I hope that this note represents to you an affirmation of the work that you do every day. I feel blessed to work with people who, each day, model what it looks like to disagree about everything from a pencil at work time to the question of whether there should be limits on immigration to the US. The work you do will have a lasting impact on the state of discourse for years to come.
I also wish to resend the resources I referenced in a push page that Judy [Lambek, LS Psychologist] and I co-wrote many moons ago. Above all else, it’s a reminder to watch closely what the children bring up in conversation, at work, and in play, and provide just enough information to correct any misunderstandings without adding to their worries. And, as always, to remind students that the job of the adults in their lives is to keep them safe.
We continue to be grateful for your partnership in navigating these complicated moments with your children. Below are the resources referenced in the letter to the teachers. Please do not hesitate to be in touch.
School Violence Prevention: Tips for Parents and Educators: National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) www.nasponline.org
Why Did It Happen?: Helping Young Children Cope in a Violent World by Janice Cohn